Bilingual Education - Meeting the Needs of Multilingual Learners

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AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. EVANGELINA BRIGNONI

This interview is the second in a new series initiated by the members of the Bulletin's 2008-2010 Editorial Board. The goal of the series is to feature interviews conducted with Delta Kappa Gamma members or other educational leaders on a topic related to the theme of the issue.

Bilingual Education

Over three million students in the United States of America have limited English proficiency (LEP). Bilingual education has been practiced in many forms, in many countries, for thousands of years. Defined broadly, it can mean any use of two languages in school - by teachers or students or both - for a variety of social and pedagogical purposes.

Generally speaking, bilingual education incorporates the practice of teaching non-nativeEnglish speaking children in their native language. Developed in the American context in the 1960's, such programs were intended to allow children to progress in subjects such as math, science and social studies while they learned English in a separate class. In today's context, a period of demographic transformation in United States, bilingual education means something more specific. It refers to approaches in the classroom that use the native language(s) of English language learners (ELLs) for instruction. The goals of bilingual education include:

* teaching English;

* fostering academic achievement;

* acculturating immigrants to a new society;

* preserving a minority group's linguistic and cultural heritage;

* enabling native English speakers to learn a second language;

* developing national language resources; or,

* any combination of the above.

Dr. Brignoni's Background in Bilingual Education

Evangelina's parents were born on the island of Puerto Rico. Her parents' first language was Spanish. She noted, "When they met and decided to get married, they made a conscious decision to teach English to their children because they felt that it was the language that would help them perform well in school. Consequently, I have spent my entire life recuperating my parents' first language, and continue to this day developing and improving my bilingual skills."

A Career Devoted to the Development of Bilingual Education

What is your teaching experience/background? My teaching experience started in California when I was given a 3rd grade bilingual class. I actually received my teaching credential in Multiple Subjects with a bilingual emphasis from California State University, Long Beach in 1978.

As a classroom teacher, I was always in a bilingual setting, teaching self-contained kindergarten, first grade, third grade, and sixth grade classes. I also taught combination classes of 4/5 bilingual and 3/4/5 bilingual gifted. For 16 years, I taught in bilingual classrooms. Later, due to the death of a fellow staff member and close friend of mine, I became a bilingual resource teacher and later a staff developer for the district. My focus was always working with English learners and maintaining the first language of their families through bilingual education.

Why were you interested in developing the Bilingual Education Endorsement Program in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO)?

When I was hired to teach literacy and the English as Second Language (ESL) methods courses at UNO, I was wondering why I accepted the position because I have always worked at a university that sponsored a bilingual program.

For example, when I worked at California State University - Fullerton and at Chapman University as adjunct faculty, I was considered a member of the bilingual education credentials faculty. That felt like home and where I needed to be. After accepting the position at UNO, I never voiced this aloud, but I was hoping that a bilingual education endorsement program could be started at UNO. And, we did it! Thanks to Becky Schnabel, Lana Danielson, Yvonne Tixier y Vigil, Carolyn Gascoigne, Susan Mayberger, and others, we collaborated and came up with an outstanding plan to endorse bilingual education teachers. …